Coonoor Calling

When Hyderabad got too hot to handle, Shivani Shroff and her husband Kirti decided to escape to a hill station. Their plans worked out perfectly considering their close friends had just built a house in Coonoor. Read all about their adventure to one of Tamil Nadu’s most pleasant locales.

When our dear friends Neena and Shankar Rao asked us to visit them in Coonoor, it was an invitation we couldn’t refuse. Having heard so many wonderful things about the place, like how salubrious the weather is, we were more than willing to take the next flight out. And why wouldn’t we? A beautiful English country home was waiting for us. Upon reaching Coonoor, we felt right at home; the house did not disappoint. Neena’s taste for the finer things showed in every corner – it was delightful!


 
The smell of eucalyptus draws you in as you drive up the breathtaking blue Nilgiris. Just half an hour away, you can find the lush hills of Ooty. We drove there to have lunch at King’s Cliff, where we had some great Continental food. The restaurant is in a beautiful English home that’s been converted into a hotel, making for a wonderful holiday afternoon ambience. After our satiating meal, we headed back to our temporary home in Coonoor, Over the Hill, as our friends so aptly call their retirement digs.

On another day, we visited Colonel Randhawa’s floriculture farm. Run commercially, the farm specialises in exotic flowers that are exported all over India, including to our very own Falaknuma Palace. We were generously given bunches of flowers to take home with us, so many that we ran out of vases in which to put them!
 
We visited the local market in Coonoor, and I found it to be very unique in both its layout and offerings. Everything from day-to-day groceries to clothes is available; we even saw building materials being sold. There was truly a bit of everything. We stopped by Krish’s Hardware Store for a quick cup of the famous and delicious metre-long coffee. The place is owned by a learned gentleman with a lovely sense of humour who doubles as a homeopath. It was a lovely day.

We went to the Wellington Gymkhana, which is in the army area. It had a beautiful but challenging golf course. Walking through the pathways, one can sometimes get a glimpse of the magnificent bison grazing in the tea bushes.  
Most of the people in Coonoor are ethnic Tamils; the original immigrants are called Badigas. The place offers all types of cuisine as they primarily cater to tourists. Apart from the usual Chinese, Continental and North Indian food, there is a wonderful little French restaurant called McIver’s.
 
It was interesting to see how strong the Coonoor club culture is. Most evenings are spent with friends, music, aerobics and exhibitions. Except for the army movie hall, Kilimanjaro, there isn’t much else in terms of entertainment; the town starts winding down early. Once the last bus of tourists has left, Coonoor shuts down.

One thing you must do while in Coonoor is visit the railway station. You can watch the famous trains chugging in over a breakfast of pongal and vadas that is so fresh and popular, it’s difficult to get your hands on them! At night, we would watch the sky, waiting for it to become speckled with stars, no pollution around to mask its divinity. The cheese and chocolates that have made the Nilgiris famous were delicious to nibble on, too.
 
Coonoor had so much to offer; what a trip it was! We experimented in the kitchen, met some gentle and kind folks, went grocery shopping for succulent, fresh vegetables, and watched the sky light up with countless specks of silver. I don’t think I could choose a single moment that topped all the others. I also loved the homeliness of the people. What struck me most was their tranquility and warmth. I particularly loved the sylvan terrain and the tea gardens in this scenic hill station.

There’s a delightful little cheese farm run by Tina and Mansoor called Acres Wild. They’ve stopped taking visitors because it interrupts the daily routine of the farm, so we couldn’t visit. But I really hope we find a way to see it on one of our future visits. The next time I’m there, I’d also love to visit some of the famous schools like Hebron in Ooty.
 
This hill station is such a picturesque vacation spot, especially when you need to get away from the city life. It’s one of those places you can’t get sick of no matter how many times as you visit. I definitely recommend going there, if not many times then just the once! It’sa great place to go with friends; Kirti and I really enjoyed Coonoor’s carefree nature. The trip and location were both filled with interesting conversation, close friends and pretty places.     - Shivani